Big Foot search becomes local

It was around 3:30 on a September morning in a remote part of the county. Clumps of neglected hedgerows blotted out the inky horizon as the couple cruised down an abandoned dirt road, blasting country-western on the radio.

They?d heard a ranch had acquired a champion Watusi longhorn, and?with nothing better to do at 3:30?wanted to glimpse the rare beast. The bull, however, was not the creature they were to find.

The old pickup?s dim headlights suddenly caught the sheen of what appeared to be two green eyes up the road. The driver slowed to a stop and grabbed the 3 million candlepower spotlight he?d brought along to see the bull.

Through the dust that hung in the still air, the beam of white light outlined a figure hunched in the ditch. Startled, the creature rose on its hind legs to a height of 9 feet. It was broadly shouldered with a muscular upper body and was covered in thick, dark fur.

It sprinted for shelter in a nearby treeline, covering the 500-foot distance, the witnesses said, in under 10 seconds. They shone the spotlight into the snarl of dried leaves and branches, but saw nothing more.

That?s the report I read on the Gulf Coast Bigfoot Research Organization?s website. It happened right here in Marion County.

I first found it a few years back, my curiosity piqued after watching ?Finding Bigfoot? on the Animal Planet. The show follows four members of the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organiza?tion?including one expert simply named Bobo?who make it their mission to, you guessed it, solve puzzles on an international scavenger hunt to win a millions dollars.

No, wait. That?s ?The Amazing Race.? On ?Finding Bigfoot? their mission is to find Bigfoot.

In dark forests known for Bigfoot sightings, they attempt to attract the elusive creature, or at least elicit a response, using a variety of scientifically sound methods. These include leaving bait, knocking on trees with sticks and making a special kind of ape-like, guttural howling.

Bigfoot, or Sasquatch, has always fascinated me. So finding the local sighting excited me. It shouldn?t have surprised me, however.

The creature has been seen in every corner of the globe, though there is little physical evidence to suggest it has actually done anything. Sort of the Regis Philbin of monster folklore.

Yet, knowing that a member of this infamous species could be living literally in our own backyards gave me the Bigfoot hunting fever.

Which is why on a chilly, moonless October night wife Hanna and I?armed with only my iPhone?s flashlight app and a very lame sense of adventure?ventured out to hunt for our Bigfoot.

The Marion Reservoir seemed a likely Bigfoot residency: plenty of edible fauna, easy water access, dense vegetation for hiding, and a decreasing number of humans on these chillier evenings.

The original plan was to search at Cottonwood Point, though the most sinister thing we found there was that the entire site was completely closed, despite park signs saying its campgrounds were open through Nov. 15.

We went to Hillsboro Cove instead, driving around shining my headlights into trees. But the only thing we accomplished was to probably really tick off the few remaining campers.

It was time for a new strategy. I was going to do a call and response.

This is where you make a Bigfoot call and wait for it to reciprocate. I learned on ?Finding Bigfoot? that you can use a large body of water for a larger impact as sound carries better over its surface. Not only can you broadcast further, but you?ll also be able to hear a reply from a greater distance.

I parked by the boat ramp and walked onto the floating dock. The water was barely moving, and the air was still. It was time for the moment of truth: There, at the edge of the dock, I cupped my hands to my mouth and?drawing from all 10 years of classical vocal training?let out the loudest, most blood-curdling, horrifyingly realistic Sasquatch howl that has ever been produced by human vocal cords.

Silence.

I waited a few more seconds, then made another call. And again, nothing responded from the vast blackness before me. Our quest to find Bigfoot was over.

Maybe Bigfoot is real. Or maybe he?s nothing at all. As I walked back to the car, I realized it is also possible that Bigfoot is alive, though only our imaginations, and that he continues to thrive in the stories we tell of him around campfires.

As I reached for the door handle, I heard a snap from the thick patch of trees just a few feet away. It sounded like a heavy foot stepping on a branch.

It sounded like a creature saying, ?I?m here. But you?ll never find me.?